Wrimle's Chess Blog

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Micro-level drills

I never read the Michael de la Maza book, but when starting with chess I read his ChessCafe.com articles "400 points in 400 days".


His concept of the 7 circles of tactics exercises are famous in the chess improvement blog sphere, and I have done my share of Chessimo exercises inspired by his article.

There is however another aspect of his training that has not received the same attention. The micro-level drills, where he trains his chess vision to instantly see things like knight moves, forks and skewers. This is the part of his method that resounded most strongly with me, and I believe his personal improvement would not have been as fast or as great without it. Whenever I find a part of my chess thinking that is a lot of effort, while it really should be automatic, I try to formulate a drill to fix it. In the past this has involved material counting. Arithmetic like "3 - 5 + 9 - 5" to assess how an involved exchange affects material balance should not require a immense conscious effort.

Lately I have done a lot of mate-in-one exercises. In a game yesterday I discovered that I am prone to overlook knight moves, and spend disproportionate amounts of time when calculating knight maneuvers. Quickly spotting weak squares is another upcoming subject.

The point is to quickly and automatically see what should be obvious, and to save the conscious effort for calculation and finding candidate moves.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

François-André Danican Philidor (1726–1795) on the Power of the Pieces

Of the Powers of the Pieces, calculated on the probability being equal of their occupying any given square in the course of the game.

Pawn . . . . 2
Knight . . . . 9 1/4
Bishop . . . . 9 3/4
Rook . . . . 15
Queen . . . . 23 3/4

The nature of the game puts the king's value above comparision. The pawn's chance of promotion increases his value to about 3 3/4.

In making this estimate, the part of the board within the sphere of each respective piece is supposed to be unoccupied.


The values are dated, but I found the method of calculation interesting. Something to have in the back of the mind when estimating the relative value of the pieces during a game.

Comparing Philidor's estimates to the modern evaluations is another interesting exercise.

Pawn . . . . 3
Knight . . . . 9
Bishop . . . . 9
Rook . . . . 15
Queen . . . . 27

Friday, 27 November 2009

Board Vision

One of my recent priorities has been to improve my calculation skills, and as a part of this to improve visualization and board vision. One problem I have with board vision is that I am unable to visualize the whole board. 4x4 squares is the most I can do at once. It is impossible for me to visualize whether two distant squares are on the same diagonal. Even visualizing the center was hard as its squares are too far from the edges of the board, which were my point of reference.

In an attempt to cure this problem I created an image of the board with quadrant lines drawn in. Then I made several randomized lists of the 64 board coordinates, from a1 to h8. The drill is that I go through a random list from beginning to end, pointing out the square of each coordinate on the board.

List 1: c5 h2 e5 c3 a5 e1 c7 b6 d8 g3 e7 e3 a8 f4 f5 b5 a3 e4 e2 d4 g8 f8 a7 g1 a6 g7 g4 h5 b7 a2 d1 d2 b4 d5 c1 h1 b8 h4 c4 b3 h3 f6 e8 a4 b1 d7 d3 f2 g6 h7 g5 a1 g2 c2 f7 c8 h8 e6 d6 h6 b2 c6 f3 f1

List 2: e4 f6 b2 e3 g4 b7 a3 h3 c1 g6 e8 c8 a5 c7 c6 e6 d1 b6 g7 d7 d2 b5 c5 h5 a2 d8 g8 g2 b3 h2 h7 e2 c2 h6 b1 a6 a1 a7 f4 b8 h1 f8 c4 e1 g3 g5 h8 e7 h4 f1 c3 e5 d6 f2 a4 g1 a8 f7 f3 d3 b4 d4 f5 d5

List 3: e6 d8 d4 f2 e1 g3 h1 a6 b2 c2 e3 b6 g8 f7 h6 c5 a2 a4 d6 g5 h3 e8 h5 f6 d2 h2 b1 c6 e4 g1 c1 f1 a3 f5 g2 c7 a7 c3 f4 d7 a1 b4 h4 b3 e2 b8 a5 f8 a8 h7 b7 c4 f3 g6 e7 h8 g4 g7 e5 d1 c8 b5 d3 d5

Next I do the same with a 4x4 board, going through the list again, pointing out where each board coordinate is inside its quadrant.

List 4: g1 a3 f3 g6 d4 e3 c2 h8 b1 d6 d7 h2 b3 b4 g5 g3 a4 h6 a1 b7 e4 f7 f2 a2 e2 c8 h5 d2 c3 d5 d1 g2 f5 e8 a7 e7 h1 f6 b6 g8 b2 c6 a8 h3 f8 g7 b5 f1 a5 d8 c7 a6 h7 c5 d3 c4 b8 c1 h4 g4 e6 f4 e5 e1

List 5: e8 d5 b5 a3 e2 b1 g2 g5 h7 c8 c6 g6 h4 a7 d3 g3 a8 h1 d2 a4 f2 d7 e1 c2 d4 g8 b6 c4 a6 g7 a1 a5 g1 h3 e3 f3 f4 b2 c1 e7 b4 d8 c3 d6 b3 h2 h5 b7 f1 f5 h6 e5 g4 f6 d1 f8 c7 e6 a2 c5 e4 b8 h8 f7

List 6: d8 c5 f7 c8 d6 h1 e3 f2 d2 a1 e8 g6 a7 c4 c6 g5 e5 c1 h5 b5 h3 h8 f3 g8 a2 a3 c7 h6 e6 h7 g1 b2 g3 e4 h2 g4 f6 b4 e2 a5 h4 c2 f4 b3 b6 a8 d7 g2 f8 c3 f5 d1 d3 g7 e7 b8 a6 a4 d4 e1 b1 b7 d5 f1

After doing these drills I visualize the board not as 64 squares, but as 4 quadrants with 16 squares each. The quadrant lines have become points of reference that has made it easier to visualize the center and orient myself around the board. When evaluating blindfol if two distant squares are on a diagonal, I fist visualize where the first square is inside its quadrant, and then where the second is inside its. With this information it has become possible to know whether they are on a diagonal or not.

A.C.I.S. of Caissa

I've been reading about the Adult Chess Improvement Seekers (ACIS) on Blunderprone's blog. The ACIS (pronounced Axis) of Caissa is quickly turning into a movement. Blunderprone himself states that: "The only real requirement is that you establish a method you can sign up for and blog about your journey." The paradigm seems to be that method is good, but different individuals might need different methods.

The A.C.I.S. of Caissa have inspired me to think through training approaches, and formulate techniques that I believe in. My basic model or method, if you will, will be:

1. Identify a problem
2. Find or design training techniques that may help
3. Train using these techniques

This means that the set of training techniques will not be static. It will change over time, depending on the problems that are addressed at the moment, and how far I've gotten in solving them.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

M-Tel masters 2009 - round 1

M-Tel masters 2009 started today. Chess fans around the world gathered on the internet to follow live transmissions of the event. Myself I was looking forward to see fellow countryman Magnus Carlsen in his fight against Veselin Topalov. It was not to be. Due to technical difficulties no moves were transmitted in the Carlsen - Topalov match, and only a few ones came in from Vassily Ivanchuk vs Alexei Shirov and Yue Wang vs Perez Leinier Dominguez.

According to an eye witness who reported on ChessGames.com the problems were caused by the Mayor of Sofia and his sense of humour. The Mayor officially opened the event by making the first move in the Carlsen - Topalov match.

Instead of making one move, he made two, however. Both as white. He explained that this is how he and his friends did it in his childhood. They had misread the rule stating that a pawn is allowed to go two squares forward the first time it moves. Undoubtedly happy with his crowd pleasing joke, the good Mayor corrected this mistake and moved the d-pawn forward two squares as Carlsen had instructed him to.

Humour, however, is not the domain of technology. Instead of smiling the computers got utterly confused. What is this? Two white moves? Oh, and this, three? A pawn moving backwards? A fourth? A fifth? All by white? Hey, guys, how about reading a rule book? And with this the live transmission went down. Not only from the Carlsen - Topalov match, but from the two matches that had already started as well. I guess the programmers at DGT found a test case they didn't think of before. And while chess seems to be one of the easiest sports in the world to report live from, practical experience is indicating otherwise.

Anyway, the games came in a few hours later. It turned out to be a fine one by Carlsen who defeated the world's top rated player in grand fashion.

Play chess online!

Friday, 8 May 2009

Wrimle vs Hebrit

This is a turn based game I recently played against Hebrit on GameKnot. Playing against Alechine's Defense is not in my repertoire, although it should be, as black plays Nf6 on move one. Luckily GameKnot allows and indeed has an integrated opening book, which makes it easier to survive unknown openings. Actually I often play thematic tournaments on GameKnot to develop my opening repertoire.

The game below has a nice trap and combination at the end, I think.

First Visit at the Chess Club

Last night I visited the local chess club. I never was there before, except to look around.

I didn't come to play. Over the board is new to me and the advertized time controls are too fast. I just wanted to watch and learn. But they where one participant short of making and even number so I joined anyway.

We were using the club's new digital clocks, the state of the art DGT 2010 model. To make use of its advanced features the time control was 10 minutes plus 5 seconds increment per move. In the end, nobody understood how to set the Fisher increment, though, so the time control was changed to 12 minutes.

The first game I lost to a kid. I played the Caro-Kann and he played the Panov Attack. I struggled a bit with visualizing tactics, not being used to the live board. I got a passed pawn on the a-file which I pushed. When it got blocked on the seventh rank I supported it with all I had. In the end I opened up too much and he got connected passed pawns on the queen side. I resigned when it was clear that one of them would promote. It would have been mate in a couple of more moves.

In the second game my oppoent played 1.d4 and I played the Leningrad Dutch. The game was quite even for a while. Then I had to play faster as my time ran low. Soon I was a couple of pawns behind and in the end I lost on time. He had unstoppable passed pawns anyway.

In the third game I was white. My opponent played Sicilian. I played the Closed Sicilan. The position was quite even. Then my opponent didn't see that he was in check and made an illegal move. He thought an illegal move was an automatic loss during a blitz game. A kibbitzer said no, I should have two extra minutes on my clock. We were using the club's new digital clocks, though, and nobody knew how to add time on them. I said that I didn't know the rules, I just played. So we played. Then a few moves later my opponent offered a draw. I accepted, realizing I would have lost on time.

The fourth game I was white and played the Vienna Gambit. My opponent correctly declined by playing 3...d5. Yet I got the initiative a couple of moves later as he didn't know the right answer to 5.d3. I built a powerful attack with all my pieces. Then I got overambitious and blundered a piece after an exchange sac. I was mated in a few more moves.

In the fifth game I played Caro-Kann again. I got a very bad position early on as my opponent played a variation I didn't know. My pieces were all locked in and uncoordinated and my king was stuck in the center. Then my opponent blunderd a horse as he was too occupied with capturing my queen. After that I got a nice attack and actually mated him. My opponent was quite annoyed with being beating by a beginner it seemed.

It was a nice experience. Playing live people sitting in front of you is quite different from sitting in front of a computer. More social in a way. And the people were really cool.